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C4 ‘should not be sold’ post Brexit

Channel 4 (C4) in the UK should not be sold off and is strong enough financially to survive in a post-Brexit era, a House of Lords committee has told the country’s government.

John Whittingdale

John Whittingdale

The House of Lords communications committee has launched a bid to save the commercially funded, state-owned broadcaster from privatisation this week.

The committee has rejected a claim made by culture and media secretary John Whittingdale that C4 would be “better off” in private hands.

The committee’s report, titled A privatised future for Channel 4?, also states that C4’s business model is sustainable until at least its current licence ends in 2024. It comes despite shares in Channel 4 and ITV plummeting following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union last month.

Lord Best, chair of the committee, said: “We are calling on the government not to take forward any ideas to privatise Channel 4, wholly or in part, as it is our view that the risks from selling it off are greater than any benefits that may arise.

“In our report we also conclude that the current business model is in fact working well for the broadcaster, and we do not believe Channel 4 is too vulnerable to continue as it is.”

Talk of the channel’s sale emerged last September when a government official was photographed carrying a Department for Culture, Media and Sport brief that outlined options for the channel’s privatisation.

Whittingdale has previously said that no decision would be made until after discussions over the future of the BBC’s charter renewal this year.

There have been reports that the UK government is rowing back on plans to privatise the pubcaster, although nothing has been confirmed.

The committee’s report added that Whittingdale should completely scrap plans to sell C4.

“Channel 4 is an important and much-valued part of the nation’s media landscape, and boasts an array of innovative and creative programming as well as a strong commitment to public service broadcasting,” Best added.

“This is evident from its distinct news and current affairs coverage, its much-lauded contribution to cinema through Film4, and its pioneering approach to on-screen diversity.

“However, we fear that these qualities would be jeopardised were the channel to be sold off.

“We believe that news output would be especially vulnerable, given its primetime position in the schedules.”

C4 is opposed to privatisation and CEO David Abraham has repeatedly warned that privatising the channel would undermine the UK’s independent production sector and lead to widespread job losses.


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